Thursday, May 7, 2020
A one year suspension of an attorney has been imposed by the New Jersey Supreme Court.
One count involved allegations that the attorney had breached his duty of confidentiality to a former client.
The client had posted a negative Yelp review despite an apparent good result as recounted by the Disciplinary Review Board
Over a year later, in the summer 2017, Carroll posted poor reviews of respondent's legal services. In retaliation, respondent posted a review of Carroll’s massage business, revealing that she was a convicted felon for fleeing the state with children, facetiously referring to her as "a wonderful parent," and further commenting that she had been convicted of shoplifting and DUI. He cautioned her clientele to "hide your wallets" during a massage, suggesting that she would steal from them, and that the DUI might lead to "a few beers during the massage."
The complaint correctly alleged that respondent’s unprofessional comments were intended to disparage his former client - to use the information to the disadvantage of his client by portraying her as a poor parent and a thief with an alcohol problem. Respondent made the statements because, he claimed, "what is good for the goose is good for the gander."
On the "generally known" exception to Rule 1.9
In this case, the complaint alleged that the information respondent divulged about Carroll’s convictions of interference of custody, shoplifting, and DUI, although publicly available, was not generally known. Respondent provided no evidence to the contrary. Based on the above guidance, we conclude that the information disclosed by respondent was not generally known and, thus, find a violation of RPC 1.9(c)(1).
we were particularly disturbed by respondent’s use of social media in the Carroll matter to disparage a former client more than a year after the termination of the representation. For the presence of these significant, aggravating factors, we determine that a one-year suspension is the quantum of discipline necessary to protect the public and preserve confidence in the bar.
Two board members favored a six-month suspension. (Mike Frisch)